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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

August 28, 2005

Hello Katrina! – Sunday, 4 p.m.

Filed under Katrina

Part of the procedure in preparing for a hurricane is to anticipate the potential damage. That means getting our basement ready for a flood surge.

water marks in basementWhen a hurricane makes landfall on the Gulf Coast, the northeast quadrant of the storm with its counterclockwise circular movement has the highest winds and storm surge. So if you are east of the point where landfall occurs, you are especially in harm’s way. My father-in-law built his house 14 feet above median high tide, so an awful lot of water has to back up Mobile Bay before it would ever get to the level of the house proper. But our basement floods on occasion, and so far the worst hurricanes for flooding were Camille in 1969 and Georges in 1998. Both went ashore in Mississippi. Of the two, Georges was worse water-wise, putting about 47 inches of rain in the basement.

stacking stuff in basementActually, it was originally not a full basement. It was simply the space under the house, since the house is built on an incline and the incline is part of the elevation needed to be well above median high tide level. When the house was built in 1964, only about the first 40 feet of the basement away from the south entrance were excavated, providing an area where my father-in-law – an architect – could store his tools. The rest of the basement to the other side of the house was just a crawl space of sorts, and dirt at that. When my father-in-law retired, he made one of his first projects the "completion" of the basement, which he accomplished by carting out all the dirt to make a stand-up basement under the entire house. Then he put a concrete floor in with a spacing for ground water to seep up during heavy rains. Knowing how high the flooding was with Camille and Georges gives us a measuring stick, so we just put everything valuable higher than 47 inches, stacking it on shelves or on my father-in-law’s old workbench, like you can see in the picture. Once that is done and the house is shuttered up, you have done everything you can do to be ready – this time for Katrina.

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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